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Best cycling computers

Best Cycling Computers
(Image credit: Josh Croxton)

The best cycling computers available are a far cry from the original ‘Cyclometer’ invented by Curtis H Veeder, an analogue device that counted how many times a wheel rotated, and converted that into distance using a formula.

Now, compact handlebar-mounted devices feature a GPS chip, Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi and provide a host of information such as maps, power, calories, speed, distance, time, training stress score, Strava Live Segments and many, many more. Most can even control your turbo trainer in place of software such as Zwift.

When you're shopping for a new cycling computer it can be challenging to navigate the vast spec sheets that come along with even the most basic units, so in the list below we’ll help you to wade through the tech jargon and help to find and buy the best cycling computer for you.

Price

Just like anything else in cycling, trying to figure out which cycling computer will fall within your budget constraints while offering the features you prioritise, can be a tall order.

Depending on how much money you have to spend, your GPS computer may have base maps, interval timers, in-depth power metrics, a colour touch screen and more connectivity than you can shake a stick at, or it might be a simple, compact unit with a black and white display and basic training metrics.

Connectivity

Every cycling head unit on the market will give you data fields like speed, distance, and time. Even at the bottom end of the spectrum, most cycling computers will support and ANT+ or Bluetooth connection to a heart rate monitor plus speed and cadence sensors. However, some less-expensive units may not support power meters.

More cycling computers are beginning to work with both ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors now. There are still a few hold-outs sticking to one or the other, but the majority will facilitate a Bluetooth connection to your phone for on-screen notifications, firmware updates and the like. Further still, some devices also connect to your home WiFi network to allow for your ride to be on Strava before you’ve taken your helmet and sunglasses off.

Most cycling computers feature a GPS chip, as well as access to other satellite networks like GLONASS, BeiDou, and Galileo, and offer some definition of navigation. Many also have a base map pre-installed which allows for turn-by-turn directions, on-the-fly redirection and some allow you to create routes and courses directly on the device.

More budget-friendly head units won’t have a base map, but may still offer what’s called ‘breadcrumb’ navigation, where the head unit will display your route as a line which you’re meant to follow.

Display

As you go up in price, you get things like touch and colour screens, but these are not something you’ll necessarily need. While touchscreens are great for swiping through pages of metrics or manoeuvring maps, if you're wearing full-finger gloves or if it's raining, the screen may not function as advertised. The same goes for colour displays, which only really become a necessity if you’re using maps.

Third-party apps

Finally, there are the extras like Komoot, Strava Live Segments, and on-screen workouts populated by Today’s Plan, Training Peaks and TrainerRoad, uploadable training metrics and data fields, drivetrain and light integration, the companion app and more.

Where these features are available will depend on the cycling computer you choose, but they are not reserved for the premium units, and you’ll see features like Strava Live Segments and drivetrain integration trickling into mid and lower range units.

(Image credit: Josh Croxton)

Garmin Edge 530

Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth, WiFi | Companion app: Yes | Navigation: Garmin Cycle Maps, Trail Forks | Battery life: 20 hours | Colour screen: Yes | Screen size: 2.6in / 66mm diagonal

Mapping is clear and simple

The follow up to the uber-successful Edge 520, the brand new Garmin Edge 530 expands on the rich training suite and adds a faster processor to massively improve mapping.

Despite many reports of setup headaches - something we also experienced - once out of the way, the long list of features makes for a great device that is fast, clear, and a positive addition to your ride. The lack of touch screen makes for labour-intensive map browsing, although that's not something you're likely to do often. 

If you're a touchscreen advocate, opt for the Edge 830, but if you prefer the tactile feel of button pushes, the 530 is equally feature-rich and refined. 

With both Garmin Cycle Maps and Trail Forks pre-installed on the Edge 530, whether on the road or trail, it can help you find your way. With a battery life of 20 hours - 40 in battery saver mode - it’s also one of the longest-lasting computers on the market, and that's before you add the Garmin Charge optional battery pack.

The Edge 530 also gets access to the Garmin Connect store, meaning you can add apps like Accuweather, Yelp, and Komoot among others, download data fields, and the computer can also talk to Garmin’s Varia Radar lights.

(Image credit: Josh Croxton)

Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt

Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth, WiFi | Companion app: Yes | Navigation: OpenStreet Map | Battery life: 15 hours | Colour screen: No | Screen size: 2.2in / 56mm diagonal

Small form factor, big battery

When it was released, the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt was basically a more compact ‘aero’ version of the brand's first computer. It had all the same features, minus one set of LED’s along the side of the screen and longer battery life — claimed at 15 hours.

Like the Roam, the Bolt relies heavily on the companion app for setup, but it’s a streamlined and intuitive process, and the ease of use is second to none. While it doesn’t get a colour screen, the monochrome version is excellent for data fields, but when it comes to navigation, it’s sometimes challenging to figure out where you’re supposed to go.

Speaking of navigation, the device comes with preloaded global maps optimised for bike-friendly routes and turn by turn navigation.

Like its more expensive cousin, the Bolt features tons of training metrics, support for both ANT+ and Bluetooth, as well as WiFi for speedy uploads to Strava, Training Peaks or wherever else you’d like your rides to be stored.

Garmin Edge 1030

Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth, WiFi | Companion app: Yes | Navigation: Garmin Cycle Maps | Battery life: 20 hours | Colour screen: Yes | Screen size: 3.5in / 89mm

Massive screen with a refined interface

The big computer on Garmin’s campus, the Edge 1030 has been the gold standard when it comes to cycling computers and navigation. Utilising the brand's cycle maps, the 1030 guides you via Garmin's Trendline Popularity Routing, drawing from billions of miles of Garmin Connect ride data to guide you towards more bike-friendly routes.

With a huge 3.5in / 89mm colour touchscreen, you can create routes directly on the device, and it will even let you know if a sharp bend is coming up. The touchscreen isn’t quite as responsive as your smartphone, but it's pretty good as far as bike computers go.

Being that this computer sits at the top of Garmin’s range, it’s no surprise it’s got every training bell and whistle the brand has to throw into a single unit and supports both ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors including power meters.

When it comes to a benchmark cycling computer in terms of functionality and quality, look no further.

Lezyne Mega C

Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth | Companion app: Yes | Navigation: Breadcrumb, Basemap through the app | Battery life: 32 hours | Colour screen: Yes | Screen size: 2.2in / 56mm

Excellent battery life

Best known for flashy pumps and drool-worthy tools, Lezyne dipped its toe into the GPS cycling computer market in 2016, and its line of Super GPS computers have found a good balance between functionality and price point.

Utilising a non-touch colour screen, the Mega C boasts a claimed battery life of 32-hours, edging in just above the Bryton Aero 60. The computer also supports ANT+ sensors including power meters and can store up to 800 hours of ride data. The companion app facilitates quick uploads and automatically pushes ride data to Strava, Training Peaks or Today’s Plan.

The little head unit can also help you chase Strava KOM / QOM’s with Live Segments, let you know if it's your kids or work calling you during your ride with on-screen notifications, and offers electronic drivetrain integration through ANT+.

The Mega C does offer turn by turn navigation and even in-activity rerouting, though you’ll need to kick off the route using your mobile phone. In lieu of a pre-installed based map, you’ll also need to sync offline maps from your phone to the computer.

SRM PC8

(Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

SRM PC8

Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth, WiFi | Companion app: Yes | Navigation: No | Battery life: 10-45 hours (3 weeks in standby mode) | Colour screen: No | Screen size: 2.7in / 68mm diagonal

The training cyclist's choice

SRM is considered the global authority when it comes to power meters, having forged a reputation in the pro peloton as the go-to data-harvesting tool of choice for the past three decades.

The SRM PC8 may have replaced the PC7 back in 2014 but it's aged impressively well during this time, both from a visual and technological point of view. The most significant hardware step-ups over its forebear comprised GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, ANT+ and an accelerometer - nothing particularly revolutionary no, but the PowerControl has never claimed to compete with Garmin and Wahoo or any other GPS computer on the market for that matter. 

Screen customisation is a relatively easy exercise allowing users to populate performance metrics and data fields via a smartphone app (the PC8 mobile app). The display is pretty basic and comprises a black and white screen which is controlled by a light-sensitive backlight - but it all works very well. The PC8, however, doesn't need the extra garnishing, touchscreen functionality, colour screen and gimmicks of its rivals; it's a prime example of the less-is-more philosophy and we like that very much. 

We particularly love the customisable, anodised aluminium chassis, which is available in ten different colours. Customers have the option of speccing the unit in their desired colour as well as choosing between eight different designs for the sides, including flags and other ornate graphics.

(Image credit: Josh Croxton)

Sigma Rox 12.0

Connectivity: WiFi | Companion app: No | Navigation: OpenStreet Map | Battery life: 16 hours | Colour screen: Yes | Screen size: 3in / 76mm

Rich feature set and ease of use

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a high-end cycling computer out of Sigma, and the Rox 12 is a slightly different approach to the GPS head unit. The full-colour touch screen is the closest in ease of use to a smartphone that we’ve come across to date, probably because under the hood it’s an Android device.

While it supports both Bluetooth and ANT+ sensors, interestingly, it does not connect to your phone, instead relying on your home WiFi for uploads, downloads and the like. With no phone connectivity, the only apps the Rox 12 can talk to at the time of writing are Strava, Komoots, Training Peaks and GPSies, as Sigma develops each third-party app for integration directly into the computer.

With Open Street maps preloaded on the device, you can upload routes from Strava, Komoots and GPSies, and you can even search address and points of interest like bike shops and restaurants among other options.

It’s got some pretty nifty power metrics like pedal smoothness and torque effectiveness in addition to all the training data fields you’d expect on a high-end GPS unit. You can also design workouts directly on the head unit too, or sync from Training Peaks.

Pioneer SGX-CA600

Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth, WiFi | Companion app: Yes | Navigation: OpenStreet Map | Battery life: 12 hours | Colour screen: Yes | Screen size: 2.2in / 56mm

In depth power data

When Pioneer entered the cycling market, the brand didn't gain its footing until the second iteration of head units and power meters. The power meter offered an overwhelming amount of data, including directional force measurements, and the SGX-500 head unit was feature rich but made you want to pull your hair out.

With its latest GPS cycling computer, the Pioneer SGX-CA600 hasn’t fixed its naming protocol, but the head unit itself is vastly improved.

First and foremost, Pioneer has fixed the rage-inducing touch screen and now allows for setup through your smartphone — double win. The head unit also features a bright, full-colour 2.2in / 56mm display, preloaded OpenStreet base map for navigation and turn by turn directions, ANT+, Bluetooth, and WiFi connectivity allowing it to talk to sensors and your smartphone. The new Pioneer head unit also plays nice with Strava, Training Peaks and Today's Plan, as well as electronic drive trains.

When used with a Pioneer power meter, the SGX-CA600 unlocks a host of in-depth pedalling metrics and information to help you improve your technique and efficiency.

(Image credit: Josh Croxton)

Bryton Rider 420

Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth | Companion app: Yes | Navigation: Breadcrumb | Battery life: 35 hours | Colour screen: No | Screen size: 2.3in / 58mm diagonal

Value for money

In our experience, Bryton cycling computers come with a bit of a learning curve and aren’t the most user-friendly units on the market, but after a bit of learning, what they do offer is serious bang for your buck and are currently used by Israel Start-Up Nation in the WorldTour.

With a companion app, you can create yourself a route and sync it to your unit for breadcrumb style routing. There's support for ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors, 77 functions and a claimed 35-hours of battery life. 

The Rider 420 also allows for workouts to be exported from TrainingPeaks directly through the device, auto-sync to third-party training software, and allows for the screens and data fields to be set up through the companion smartphone app.

If you're someone who follows routes often, the Rider 420 might not be the best for you, but if you're after big function with a small price, look no further. 

Hammerhead Karoo

(Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Hammerhead Karoo

Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth, WiFi | Companion app: Yes | Navigation: OpenStreet Map | Battery life: 15 hours | Colour screen: Yes | Screen size: 3.5in / 89mm diagonal

Great resolution and navigation

Make no mistake, the Karoo is a pretty sizeable unit when compared to its rivals but it is sleek-looking nonetheless. The build quality is exceptional and the housing itself is chunky, hardy and designed to take a beating on the road or trail, perhaps that's why Hammerhead doesn't offer a protective silicon case, although we would appreciate the option. 

The Hammerhead boasts one of, if not, the best screens on the market. Utilising a 0.9mm-thick sheet of Gorilla Glass, the high-definition 640x480 (229 pixels per inch) touchscreen is super-responsive and one of its biggest drawcards.

The full-colour mapping is superbly detailed and it’s the accuracy of the routing that sets it apart, not to mention the turn-by-turn instructions which display on the bottom of the screen - the company does, after all, pride itself on its navigation proficiency. Routes can be added by loading any of the usual file extensions such as GPX, FIT, TCX, KML, or KMZ. 

At 98 x 72 x 28mm the Hammerhead is a fair whack bigger than its rivals but something that didn’t quite bother us. In fact, the bigger screen made monitoring vitals such as power and heart rate less of a strain and more of a pleasure. The Hammerhead Karoo’s mapping and GPS capabilities are unsurpassed, trumping its rivals in terms of accuracy, directional prompting and level of detail. In terms of battery life, Hammerhead claims 15 hours per charge which is on par with segment standards. A clever touch is a battery-saving mode, which allows the Karoo's screen to be turned off while still recording the remainder of the ride.